First Quantum Minerals maintained its trend of increasing production in the third quarter of 2023, propelled by the mining firm’s execution of new agreements with the Zambian government in the previous year.
During the quarter, FQM marked a significant milestone by making its first concentrate sale from the newly established Enterprise nickel mine in Kalumbila.
Additionally, the company continued to advance steadily with the S3 expansion project at its Kansanshi mine in Solwezi.
This performance was also a result of mining fleet deployment changes, allowing for the opening up of new mining areas and a reduced reliance on variable-grade ore stockpiles.
“Enterprise is pleased to announce the successful achievement of its first concentrate sale during the third quarter of 2023. The primary focus remains on waste stripping and the final ramp-up of the process plant to reach full production capacity.
“This process was challenged by the metallurgical characteristics of the shallow ore, which impacted recoveries. However, a deeper understanding of the process impact of this material has been developed, leading to continuous improvements,” said FQM Country Manager, Dr. Godwin Beene.
He noted that the Enterprise project was encouraged by the ongoing enhancements in plant recovery and concentrate quality as the sulphide ore quality continued to increase, aligning with the geometallurgical understanding of the deposit.
In response to the challenges faced, Dr. Beene revealed that the production guidance for Enterprise in 2023 has been adjusted to a range of 3,000 to 5,000 contained tonnes of nickel, a revision from the earlier projection of 5,000 to 10,000 metric tonnes.
Dr. Beene further said that progress was going well at the S3 expansion project, with the detailed design expected to be largely completed by the end of this year, and that key equipment deliveries for the long-lead mining fleet and process plant had already begun.
“The site has seen the commissioning of the first ultra-class trucks, and initial components for the mills and primary crusher have been dispatched. Deliveries will continue through the second quarter of 2024. And by the end of the quarter, approximately 90 percent of all mechanical equipment has been ordered, and the overall project procurement has reached around 55 percent commitment,” he said.
He added that most of the capital expenditure for the S3 expansion was anticipated in 2024, and the first production is expected in 2025.
“In the coming months, Kansanshi will continue to prioritise mining cutbacks at M15 and M17, situated at upper elevations in the main pit, where mineralisation predominantly exists in stratigraphy and with wider veins, thereby ensuring higher grades and enhanced production for the remainder of 2023,” he said.
“FQM Trident is delighted to report a substantial increase in copper production during the third quarter of 2023. The operation successfully produced 63,805 metric tonnes of copper, marking a remarkable growth of 9,760 metric tonnes compared to the previous quarter,” he continued.
Dr Beene attributed the positive performance to the steady improvement in operations following the challenges posed by record heavy rains earlier in the year, adding that during Q3, higher-grade copper was accessed, contributing to the substantial growth in production.
“However, mining activities faced challenges due to the presence of very hard rock in Stages 1 and 2 of the open pit, resulting in increased blast requirements and hindering crushing reliability and milling efficiencies.
FQM Trident’s Stage 3 (Western Cut-back) mining is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2023, bringing more favourable mining conditions with softer material and shorter haul distances, ultimately improving overall mining efficiencies. Nevertheless, substantial ore contributions from Stage 3 are not expected until the end of the second quarter of 2022,” he continued.
Globally, FQM’s total copper production for the third quarter was 221,550 tonnes, an 18 percent increase from Q2 2023. The quarter-over-quarter increase in production was attributable to an improvement in throughput and grades at the company’s three largest mines, particularly at Cobre Panamá with the continued strong ramp-up of the CP100 Expansion project, as well as Kansanshi and Sentinel in Zambia. Copper sales volumes in Q3 2023 totalled 218,946 tonnes, 2,604 tonnes lower than production.
Worldwide, gross profit for the third quarter of US$660 million was 149 percent higher than Q2 2023, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA1) of $969 million for the same period was 71 percent higher due to higher sales volumes, partially offset by lower realised metal prices.